The Sikh community has historically believed in generously sharing its food with everyone, regardless of their gender, religion, economic status and caste. That’s why, almost every Gurdwara (a place of assembly or worship for the Sikhs) comes with a ‘Guru ka Langar’ or community kitchen attached, which serves as a space for all visitors to gather and eat together, free of any cost. And while this free meal earlier consisted of basic vegetarian Indian food like daal, roti and a special parshada (holy offering), some langars, especially those in the city of Sultanpur Lodhi—an important pilgrimage site in Punjab—are upping their game to include fancy fast food items like burgers, pizzas and noodles.
“As time changes, every concept gets changed. Same is the case with the langar’s concept. Now people are serving all those items which one could not imagine till a few years back,” Sukhchain Singh, sarpanch of Ugarpur village in Kapurthala district of Punjab told The Indian Express, stressing that there is no harm in serving fast food, especially since many poor people who come to the langar can otherwise not be able to afford it. “But it has to be vegetarian and in pangat (served to people sitting in rows).”
About 70 langars have been set up in Sultanpur Lodhi, some by people from various Sikh communities, but most initiated by the gurdwaras in the region. However, not all of them are okay with modernising their menus and instead, prefer to stick to the philosophy of simple living propagated by Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism.
“Simple living was the main philosophy of Guru Ji and we should follow that instead of spending too much (on) delicacies,” said Gurmit Singh, who has set up a langar on the Sultanpur Lodhi road. However, others like Baba Nirmal Singh of Dhuriwale argue that it is just a way to keep up with the times and improve the variety of their food. He said, “Our main motive is to serve people good food.”
In fact, gurdwara grub now also includes South Indian food in some places. Most of these feed lakhs of hungry people almost on a daily basis, spending whatever they earn from donations or grants. Meanwhile, some langars, like the Gurdwara Lang Sahib whose kitchen is run by Inderjit Singh, even serve sumptuous desserts like jalebi, fizzy drinks and coffee. “By putting langars we want to share what we earn with everyone,” he said. At all langars in the town, food is readily available round the clock and kitchen volunteers invite devotees inside using loudspeakers. Since single-use plastic is actively discouraged in the city, they will be served in biodegradable plates and glasses.
These menu updates are probably part of the city of Sultanpur Lodhi gearing up to celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev on November 12, which has prompted many arrangements to be made so that devotees have a smooth-sailing experience. This not only includes expanding the menu, making bus services free and alloting proper sections for 60 lakh people expected to come into town for the festivities, but also a virtual-reality experience that lets people play the langar server. Similar upgrades to the menu were made in 2016 during the 350th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak when pizzas were introduced in gurdwara cuisine in places like Haryana and even Patna.
Meanwhile, members on Sikh chat forum Sikh Sangat have already started discussing whether the pizzas served are truly vegetarian since the milk used to make the cheese will be taken from animals, and are instead suggesting that these pizzas go totally vegan.
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